En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
2 ratings

Tuesday - August 26, 2008

From: Grafton, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Strange growth on oak tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton


i have a very strange round segmented growth on a tree in my yard. i think the tree is a chinkapin oak and the growth is a reddish color. it looks like a ball with suction cups on it. it is very strange looking thing and I have not been able to id it anywhere!


It sounds as if your tree has a gall.  This is a growth that the tree makes in response to an insect or another organism such as a mite or a fungus.  Many galls are caused by an insect laying its eggs in the tree.  The insect hatches inside the gall growth, feeds on the growth and then emerges from the gall to continue its life cycle.  Here is more information about oak galls from the University of Kentucky and here is a Gallery of Common Galls from North Carolina State University.  Your growth sounds a bit like a horned oak gall.  If you don't find your growth in one of these links, please send us a photo and we will do our best to identify it.  Please visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants Plant Identification page to read instructions for submitting photos.

Note from Mr. SP:  After this answer was posted, someone else sent us a photograph that sounds very much like the gall described above.  We submitted the photo to BugGuide.net and asked if anyone could identify it.  Someone did identify it as being made by a gall wasp, Adleria quercusstrobilana, in the (Family Cynipidae), laying its eggs in the stem of the tree.


More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Texas Pistachio trees dropping leaves in Austin
June 09, 2010 - I have several Texas Pistachio that are about 13 years old. Despite good rainfall in Travis county this year, they seem to be losing most of their new leaf growth now in early June. Leaves are simpl...
view the full question and answer

Fasciation in Houston.
March 29, 2008 - I live in Houston and have had a rather large flower garden for many years. Most of the flowers are just gorgeous but over the last two or three years I have noticed that occasionally some of the flo...
view the full question and answer

Is my Crimson queen maple dying?
October 20, 2015 - Is my Crimson queen maple dying if it's leaves are turning brown?
view the full question and answer

Newly planted nuttall oaks from Houston TX
November 16, 2012 - I recently purchased two Nuttall Oak Trees in Houston Texas (October). They are both 15' or taller. I planted them within 24 hours of being delivered, watered them in, staked them, and within 3-4 d...
view the full question and answer

Brown flakes on prickly pear in Los Angeles
June 03, 2008 - I live in Los Angeles CA. I have desert type plants in my landscape. I have prickly pear cactus that have developed some light brown, almost golden flakes on the skin of the pads. I believe it is call...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center